‘Tis The Season For Announcements

Posted in IndyCar on January 23, 2019 by Oilpressure

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It’s always amazing how quickly things start happening once the calendar flips to the new year. We are barely more than three weeks into 2019 and we’ve already seen announcements pertaining to NBC IndyCar schedule, NTT coming on board as the new title sponsor and most recently – announcements from individual IndyCar teams confirming their plans for the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season.

That’s what I really like about this time of year, because when teams announce their plans – they are also generally showing off any changes in their livery.

Before the days of the internet, we were forced to wait on our racing magazines to be delivered before we could catch a glimpse of what new cars would look like. Of course back then, we were also finding out what each chassis would look like, as well.

In the early nineties, I subscribed to three magazines; AutoWeek, Racer and IndyCar Racing. At this time of year, I would anxiously check my mailbox to see what the new cars looked like. Each magazine would show shots from pre-season testing. Sometimes cars would be in their natural carbon-fiber state, with just white lettering on the sidepods. But we were trying to see the difference in the updated chassis. The updated liveries would come later. With the common body kits that were introduced last year – we already know what the car looks like. The only suspense these days is in the livery.

Last Friday, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports held an event at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Not only did they unveil their new livery, but they also announced that Arrow was stepping up their sponsorship to include primary sponsorship on both fulltime cars. It was also announced that the team will be re-branded as Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Since that is a lot to type with each team mention, I’ll probably use the more convenient “Arrow SPM”.

In a nice touch, not only did the event feature the fulltime cars of James Hinchcliffe (No.5) and Marcus Ericsson (No.7) – they also had the No.6 on-hand to send the message that as soon as Robert Wickens is able to drive again, he has a car waiting on him. Wickens was at the event and was interviewed by emcee Anders Krohn. He seemed upbeat and positive, but afterwards made it clear that he does not plan to be ready to drive the car at any point in 2019. Still, it was encouraging to see him there and it was good to see that the team is fully behind him.

With Arrow stepping up their role with Arrow SPM, they are sending a message that they intend to win…now. Not only do they have a proven winner with James Hinchcliffe, I expect rookie Marcus Ericsson to contend for wins like Wickens did last year in his shortened rookie campaign.

This was a well-choreographed event on Friday, with the three cars on the floor where the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets play. But if you know me, you know there was a negative – the liveries.

Not only were all three cars identical, except for the numbers – but they took one of the better liveries on the grid and dulled it down. All three cars resembled the familiar gold and black scheme that the No.5 car has been carrying since May of 2015. But there were two major differences between the previous Hinch cars and these. First of all, the reflective chrome effect on the gold had been replaced with more of a dull old-gold look. Worst of all the sidepods, wings and rear cowling are now in the dreaded matte black finish.

If you’ve been a regular reader here, you know how much I dislike a matte finish. The first time I can recall seeing an Indy car with a matte finish was on the first William Rast car that had, what I thought was a hideous flat olive green finish. It had the sex-appeal of an M4 Sherman tank. When Charlie Kimball switched from a good-looking blue and orange car to the hideous matte black finish for the past few years – he had what I considered to be the ugliest car in the paddock.

In my opinion, race cars were meant to shine – the more glossy, the better. When the cars were under the lights at Gateway, most of them really popped to those of us in person. Then there was the matte back car of Charlie Kimball. You could barely see it as it rode stealthily under the lights like a B-2 bomber. I know that it is trendy these days to have a matte finish on cars and football helmets, but I think history will look back on this fad and laugh. This current trend in auto racing will be the equivalent of the leisure suits and pullover baseball jerseys from the seventies. In catching myself about to start a long rant, suffice it to say that I don’t care for flat or matte finishes on race cars.

Then on Monday, we finally got some confirmation of what’s going on at Carlin. What was no surprise at all was that Max Chilton will be returning to the team as well as his primary sponsor, Gallagher. This will be the fourth straight year that Chilton will be sponsored by Gallagher, which is no huge surprise since his father is one of the top executives there. His first two seasons were with Chip Ganassi Racing, then last season – he and Charlie Kimball migrated to Carlin as the successful motorsports team began their IndyCar operation from scratch.

The one slight surprise from Carlin is that veteran driver Charlie Kimball will only be a part-timer as he begins his ninth IndyCar season. Novo Nordisk will remain as his sponsor, but we learned last fall that they had planned to scale back their support. Apparently, Kimball was unable to secure any more funding so Carlin will have an unnamed second driver in the No.23 car during races when Kimball will not be in the cockpit. There were no liveries revealed for the Carlin teams, but don’t be surprised if the Novo Nordisk car is clad in that horrible matte black finish.

Then yesterday, Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) announced their plans. When they were not part of the Arrow SPM announcement on Friday, I wondered if they were still going to have an association with Sam Schmidt’s growing team. My concerns were put to rest when they announced they would still be with SPM. Last year, MSR and driver Jack Harvey ran a total of six races – St. Petersburg, Long Beach, the Indianapolis 500, Mid-Ohio, Portland and Sonoma.

This year, Harvey returns to the cockpit of the No.60 car as well as sponsors AutoNation and SiriusXM; and they are increasing their program to ten races. They will run every event as 2018 (substituting Laguna Seca for Sonoma), while adding COTA, Barber, the IndyCar GP and Road America.

This is the right way to build a successful program. While we were all happy to have two brand-new full-time teams from Carlin; some figured they were biting off too much at the beginning. I’m figuring Michael Shank has an eye on going fulltime in 2020, after two part-time seasons. The patience will pay off.

Except for the Indianapolis 500, we’ve pretty well heard from all of the full and part-time NTT IndyCar Series teams, save one – Juncos. I’m not sure anyone knows what their plans are, but hopefully they can find their footing after a very shaky part-time 2018 season. They have yet to announce their plans and/or sponsors and Carlin still needs to announce their driver for the non-Kimball races.

The announcement season is now pretty much over. There haven’t been many offseason surprises this time, other than Arrow stepping up their sponsorship. But now that we’ve heard from just about every team what their respective plans are – we are less than a month away from Spring Training at COTA. Once that’s over, we’ll be less than four weeks from the drop of the green flag in St. Petersburg. Believe it or not, it’s almost time to go racing!

George Phillips

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Where Does The DXC Technology 600 Rank?

Posted in IndyCar on January 21, 2019 by Oilpressure

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When I was writing about NTT coming on board as the new title sponsor for the newly-branded NTT IndyCar Series last week, I mentioned that some consider the IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway to be the second-most important race on the IndyCar schedule. A longtime reader and commenter challenged that statement and others questioned it as well. He asked me if I was one who thought it was, and I had to pause and ask myself the same question.

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Going In Opposite Directions

Posted in IndyCar on January 18, 2019 by Oilpressure

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Last Friday was not a good day for those that have staked out a career in motor racing. NASCAR laid off roughly fifty of their in-house corporate employees in a cost-cutting move. Reportedly, there were a lot of long-term employees very good at their job that were let go. Considering my day job is heavily involved with Workforce Development, I consider last Friday a very dark day.

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IndyCar Hits A Home Run

Posted in IndyCar on January 16, 2019 by Oilpressure

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One of the worst kept secrets of 2019 was made official yesterday, when it was confirmed that NTT would become the title sponsor for the IndyCar Series. OK…there was one surprise. We had all assumed that it would be NTT Data coming on board. Instead, we learned that it would be their parent company; Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) assuming the role of title sponsor for the NTT IndyCar Series. About ten days ago, Adam Stern of SportsBusiness Journal reported that IndyCar had been in advanced talks with NTT Corp about taking over as the title sponsor, after the deal with Verizon expired at the end of 2018.

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The Field of 33

Posted in IndyCar on January 14, 2019 by Oilpressure

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There has been a disturbing trend in the IndyCar blogosphere over the past several years. When I started this site almost ten years ago, there were so many IndyCar blogs that there was no way to keep up with them. Some were obviously better than others, but the choices were endless. Some were so funny that they were considered sarcastic masterpieces. Others were very professional looking websites that had a slew of contributors behind the scenes.

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A May In The Life Of A Yellow Shirt–Part II

Posted in IndyCar on January 11, 2019 by Oilpressure

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By Paul Henry

Note from George: Timing is everything! Last month, I was approached by former fellow-blogger, Paul Henry (otherwise known as GForce Paul), about doing a guest blog here on what should be a fascinating topic for anyone who has ever attended the Indianapolis 500. As it turned out, my work is sending me to Washington, DC for the latter part of the week so it seemed like a good time for Paul’s post. Shortly after he started writing it, he told me it would have to be a two-parter. Even better, since I was not scheduled to get back home until late last night.

Some of you will remember Paul’s blog, “WideOpenWheel”, which he started in 2011. Although he and I have corresponded for years, we never met until this past May when he was in his new position – an IMS “Yellow Shirt”. On Wednesday, he discussed his recruitment and becoming a Yellow Shirt. Today he will provide us with a peek behind the curtain as a Yellow Shirt in the Month of May as he goes into detail about Race Day Merriment. I will return here on Monday Jan 14. – GP

In our previous episode, I mentioned that working for IMS as a Yellow Shirt makes for a long day. I do not exaggerate nor embellish; these are very long days. This is a calling that defines “you get out what you put in”.  You will not be successful if you are dollar driven and fail to feel the satisfaction of being part of something greater. Therefore, it is so important to really, REALLY want to do this for the love of the sport. Consequently, some of my fellow yellows have tenure that exceeds 40 years on the job! Consider this point: it takes over 2500 Yellow Shirts to pull off this event. That includes growing programs that involve volunteers from colleges, local schools and paid sub-contractors.   It takes a small, ever changing army and it takes dedication. Do you have that in your make up?

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A May In The Life Of A Yellow Shirt–Part I

Posted in IndyCar on January 9, 2019 by Oilpressure

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By Paul Henry

Note from George: Timing is everything! Last month, I was approached by former fellow-blogger, Paul Henry (otherwise known as GForce Paul), about doing a guest blog here on what should be a fascinating topic for anyone who has ever attended the Indianapolis 500. As it turned out, my work is sending me to Washington, DC this week so it seemed like a good time for Paul’s post. Shortly after he started writing it, he told me it would have to be a two-parter. Even better, since I’m not scheduled to get back home until late Thursday night.

Some of you will remember Paul’s blog, “WideOpenWheel”, which he started in 2011. Although he and I have corresponded for years, we never met until this past May when he was in his new position – an IMS “Yellow Shirt”. Today and Friday, he will provide us with a peek behind the curtain as a Yellow Shirt in the Month of May.

Part II will run on Friday as he goes into detail about Race Day Merriment. I will return here on Monday Jan 14. – GP

I have this illness called speed induced methanol addiction and have found that on some days the urge is so bad that I could eat it for breakfast! I also am approaching retirement age and was asked one day by my far better half what was next? I have always had this idea that I would LOVE to work at the shrine of speed, The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the group that controls access to Gasoline Alley. You know, those grumpy old men and women that wear these cool yellow shirts, stop you at the door and merrily blow those annoying whistles all day. They seem such a happy bunch that I thought this would be a great future life for me. I mean, what could be more fun then yelling at people incessantly, going deaf from engines being warmed in the garage and freely throwing out the word NO!! all day long?

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